Columbus Day 2020

Columbus Day History, Date, and Controversy

May 15, 2020
Columbus Day and Exploration

Columbus Day occurs on the second Monday in October. This year, it will be observed on Monday, October 12. Why do we observe Columbus Day? Here’s a brief history of the holiday.

What Is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is a federal U.S. holiday that commemorates the voyage and landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in the “New World” on October 12, 1492. 

The anniversary of his landing in what would eventually be known the Americas was first formally celebrated 300 years later, in 1792, by the Columbian Order (Society of St. Tammany) in New York City.

When Is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is observed on the second Monday in October each year. This means that the date changes from year to year.

In 2020, Columbus Day will be observed on Monday, October 12.

Year Columbus Day
2020 Monday, October 12
2021 Monday, October 11
2022 Monday, October 10
2023 Monday, October 9

A Brief History of Columbus Day

In Christopher Columbus’ day, scholars knew already that the world was round; the fact dated from the ancient Greeks. People assumed that a ship traveling west from Europe would sail clear through to Asia. However, many believed that such a westward journey was impossible. Columbus, an Italian, was convinced otherwise and persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to sponsor his exploration and search for riches.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed on a small island in the Bahamas, convinced that he had reached his destination of Asia. Although he was not the first European to come across the Americas (Vikings, among others, had visited before), his journey sparked enthusiasm for European exploration of the hemisphere, and kicked off a significant connection between the Old World and the New World.

The first celebration of Columbus’s landing in the New World took place in 1792. It was organized by the Columbian Order (Society of St. Tammany) in New York City. In 1937, the occasion was declared a national holiday by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Columbus Day has been observed on the second Monday of October since 1971.

Thanks to Columbus’ Italian heritage, some Italian-American circles observe Columbus Day as a holiday for celebrating Italian history, culture, and accomplishments. 

Columbus Day Controversy

The observance of Columbus Day is not without controversy, however. Although Columbus’ landing in the New World marked the start of a new age of exploration and development for the world, the reality of European colonization is that it brought disease, enslavement, and genocide to the indigenous people of the Americas. This part of colonial history has largely been left unrecognized in Columbus Day celebrations, though in recent decades this has been changing, with more and more cities and states choosing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Some locations in the United States honor Native American culture on the second Monday in October with a holiday called Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since the late 1980s, this day has been celebrated instead of or alongside Columbus Day. 

The purpose of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not to erase Columbus Day from history, but rather to recognize, honor, and celebrate the Native American cultures and people who have inhabited the Americas since long before European explorers arrived.

Related Articles

Coincidentally, Columbus Day weekend is often when the fall foliage peaks in some regions of North America. Learn why fall leaves change color!

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Reader Comments

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To celebrate Columbus Day is

To celebrate Columbus Day is to celebrate Genocide Day.

Columbus Day

I am not an indigenous person. My people came from Sweden by way of Canada. I am an American and I love my country, but I can't say I'm proud of how the Europeans came and declared this land theirs. Let me ask you this. If you were comfy in your recliner watching tv in your house that you have cared for and love, and suddenly someone came through your door, looked around, and said "Yes, I love it here!!", this is our house now and you people are going to have to move somewhere else. We will even give you a little shed to live in! How would you feel about that? I would want to fight to keep my house. I know you can't stop progress, I just wish it didn't have to be cruel.

Columbus Day???

I do not celebrate this holiday, which has wreaked havoc on our native Americans, the first people. Columbus and his troops killed them, enslaved them, and brought diseases to this new land to which the natives had no immunity! This to me was a crime of inhumanity. Instead, I celebrate Indigenous People's Day, and I am not a native American, but I am humanitarian. And did you know that Vermont does not celebrate Columbus Day? It is a work and school day for the state.

COLUMBUS DAY

When you know that Columbus was not the "First" explorer especially Today...Why do you still celebrate this myth adopted in the 30's..in 1492-his First Voyage he never stepped foot in the "Americas" nor on his Second Voyage. His 3td Voyage 1498 he lands eventually on the Paria Penninsula-Venezuela...His 4th Voyage in 1502 , he lands in the Central Americas on the advice of Locals which is technically North America-and exactly what did he discouver/find---there were people already living in the areas that he touristed.... John Cabot was an Italian navigator and explorer. His 1497 discovery of the coast of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century. They too were welcomed by Locals.
Are they not teaching this in school? or is it too late or too deeply engrained to correct/emend/amend this History faux-pas....

Columbus

The idea of discovery does not mean uninhabited. It means found, which Columbus did. He insisted that the world was round, although most people believed that it was flat. He claimed that he could get to the east by sailing west. No one in Europe, Africa, or Asia knew of the two continents now called North and South America. Hence the discovery idea.

re Discovery - Uninhabited - Found -- terms confirmed

Well said, Eileen, well said. Thank You.

Columbus Day

Why don't you finish telling all the facts about Columbus Day. Like the real reason it was changed from October 12th, to the second Monday in October, was so that the politicians, and other Government employees, could have an extended 3-day weekend. They couldn't care less about the man, Christopher Columbus.

to Mike Robinson Columbus Day 3 Day Celebration

Oh dear oh dear... in those days, politicians listened to their constituents... 3 day wkend for workers was and still is, appreciated and valuable for all the good things that people CAN do... walking, hiking, end of summer picnic with family and friends, shopping, stocking up for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's.... and knowing as every school kid does, that it is a Columbus Day Holiday.... if no one "schools" them on what that means, it is our fault as adults responsible for ensuring great educations for our kids... so, close the Dept of Education and return responsibility to the States where it was when we had excellent teachers interested in students' minds instead of their pants; students proud and grateful to be students learning from valuable curriculum and graduating with confidence in themselves, their futures, and their COUNTRY. Return funds to States and also cut off tentacles of Dept of Ed that invade every area of our lives. THAT is our job.